Source: Nats moving toward hiring Coles as hitting coach

Though a deal is not yet finalized, the Nationals are making progress toward hiring Darnell Coles as their new hitting coach, a source familiar with the discussions confirmed.

Details still have to be worked out, according to the source, but once completed Coles would take the position held the last four seasons by Kevin Long, who departed earlier this week to become the Phillies hitting coach.

Darnell Coles Brewers blue sidebar.jpgThe news was first reported by MLB.com.

Coles, 59, spent the last seven seasons as a major league hitting coach, first with the Brewers (2015-18) and most recently with the Diamondbacks (2019-21). He was fired in June after Arizona went through a 5-30 stretch with a .631 OPS that ranked last in the majors during that time.

Prior to that, Coles spent four seasons as a minor league coach and manager for the Nationals, serving as a roving hitting instructor in 2006, manager at short-season Single-A Vermont in 2007 and low Single-A Hagerstown in 2008, then hitting coach at Triple-A Syracuse in 2009. He also previously worked for the Mariners and Tigers.

A third baseman and corner outfielder during a 14-year playing career with eight different big league clubs, Coles was a teammate of Nationals manager Davey Martinez in 1992 with the Reds. The two have maintained a friendship since.

The Diamondbacks saw a significant improvement in offense during Coles’ first season as hitting coach, finishing sixth in the National League in runs, seventh in batting average and eighth in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS while matching a club record with 220 homers. They regressed the last two seasons and ranked among the worst offenses in the league while losing 110 games this year, though the lineup was decimated by injuries.

In Washington, Coles will be tasked with leading a lineup that already features one of the best hitters in the sport in Juan Soto, an accomplished cleanup hitter in Josh Bell and a lot of less-experienced regulars trying to establish themselves as big league regulars for the first time.

It’s unclear if Pat Roessler, the Nationals assistant hitting coach the last two seasons, will return or will be following longtime colleague Long to Philadelphia. Long is replacing Joe Dillon, who had been his assistant coach in D.C. in 2018-19, and was fired by the Phillies at season’s end.

The Nats are also still seeking new first and third base coaches after informing Randy Knorr and Bob Henley they were not being brought back to the major league staff in 2022. Both longtime coaches have been offered positions in player development.

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